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Religious Tolerance logo


The date of origin and founder(s)
of various Christian faith groups

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Listed below are the founder(s), starting date and starting location of a number of Christian faith groups and traditions. They are organized in chronological order. In some cases, the data is under dispute. 

Faith Group or tradition Founder Date (CE) Location
Roman Catholic Jesus, Peter Circa 30 1 Judea
Orthodox churches Jesus, Peter Circa 30 2 Judea
Lutheranism/Protestantism Martin Luther 1517 3 Germany
Swiss Reformed Church Zwingli 1523 Switzerland
Mennonites No single founder 1525 Switzerland
Anglican Communion King Henry 8th 1534 England
Calvinism John Calvin 1536 Switzerland
Presbyterianism John Knox 1560 Scotland
Baptist Churches John Smyth 1605 Holland
Dutch Reformed Michaelis Jones 1628 Netherlands
Amish Jakob Ammann 1693 Switzerland
Methodism John Wesley 1739 England
Quakers George Fox 1647 England
Moravians Count Zinendorf 1727 Germany
Congregationalism John & Charles Wesley 1744 England
Swedenborg Emanuel Swedenborg 1747 Sweden
Brethren John Darby 1828 England
Latter-day Saints Joseph Smith 1830 NY, USA
Seventh Day Adventists Ellen White 1860 NH, USA
Salvation Army William Booth 1865 England
Jehovah's Witnesses Charles Russell 1870 PA, USA
Christian Science Mary Baker Eddy 1879 Pleasant View, NH USA
Pentecostalism Charles Parham 1900 CA, USA
Worldwide Church of God Herbert W. Armstrong 1933/1947 OR, USA 4
Unification Church Sun Myung Moon 1954 South Korea


1. Beliefs concerning the origin of the Roman Catholic Church differ:

  • According to the Roman Catholic Church, the church was founded by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost during the year 30 CE, some 50 days after Jesus' execution by the Roman Army which ocurred circa 30-APR CE. Peter moved to Rome, and became the first pope of the Christian movement. The church teaches that he was followed by a continuous succession of popes up to the present day. They teach that the Roman Church is the true church founded by God.

  • According to many liberal theologians and historians: Peter never moved to Rome. James, the brother of Jesus, headed the Jewish Christian Movement in Jerusalem after Jesus' execution, along with Peter as a co-leader. Paul returned to Judea later and founded Pauline Christianity in competition to Jewish Christianity. Gnostic Christianity came still later. Only Pauline Christianity survived. They assert that centralization of church power in Rome did not occur until perhaps the mid 5th century CE. Pope Leo I, who reigned from 440 to 461 CE, claimed that the Bishop of Rome was highest ranking bishop. That time period could be considered as the start of the Roman Catholic church.

2. Beliefs concerning the origin of the Eastern Orthodox church also differ: 

  • The Eastern Orthodox church and most religious historians teach that there were five Patriarchates in the early years of Christianity. They were: Alexandria, Antioch Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome. Each was governed by a Bishop. With the advent of Islam, only Constantinople and Rome survived as major power centers. They were in a continual state of disagreement until they formally severed their relationship in 1054 CE by mutually excommunicating each other's leaders.

  • The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Bishop of Rome was universally recognized as the center of authority within very early Christianity. The Eastern branch of Christianity broke away from Rome in 1054 CE. However, the two groups both recognize the Apostolic succession and what the Roman Catholic Church considers to be "a valid Eucharist.

3. Beliefs concerning the origin of Protestantism: 

  • Popular belief is that on 1517-OCT-31, Martin Luther wrote a list of propositions for change in the Roman Catholic Church and nailed it to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg Germany. In reality, he probably hung the list on the door to announce an academic discussion that he was organizing at the time. In the document, he criticized many beliefs and practices of the Church, notablly its selling of Indulgences to church members that were promised to lessen the time that they would spend after their death in Purgatory before they were sent to Heaven. This resulted in the creaton of the Lutheran Church and later the tens of thousands of Protestant denominations and faith groups that exist today in all their diversity.

4. Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986):

He started the Radio Church of God in Eugene OR in 1933 -- one of many churches which contained the phrase "Church of God." He changed the prefix to "Worldwide" in 1947

Related essays on this site:

bulletThe history of Christianity:

bulletAn overview of early Christian history as seen by religious historians
bulletAn overview of early Christian history as seen by the Roman Catholic Church

Copyright © 1999 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2019-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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